Discussion Paper

Assessing the Energy Efficiency Information Gap: Results from a Survey of Home Energy Auditors

Oct 4, 2011 | Karen L. Palmer, Margaret A. Walls, Hal Gordon, Todd Gerarden

Summary

A survey of home energy auditors reviews the extent to which these professionals are providing information that closes the energy efficiency gap, and how and why homeowners act, or do not act, on this information. This paper was also published in Energy Efficiency.

Abstract

Commercial and residential buildings are responsible for 42 percent of all U.S. energy consumption and 41 percent of U.S. CO2 emissions. Engineering studies identify several investments in new enegy-efficiency equipment or building retrofits that would more than pay for themselves in terms of lower future energy costs, but homeowners and businesses generally do not have good information about how to take advantage of these opportunities. Energy auditors make up a growing industry of professionals who evaluate building energy use and provide this information to building owners. This paper reports the results of a survey of nearly 500 home energy auditors and contractors that Resources for the Future conducted in summer 2011. The survey asked about the characteristics of these businesses and the services they provide, the degree to which homeowners follow up on their recommendations, and the respondents’ opinions on barriers to home energy retrofits and the role for government. Findings from the survey suggest that the audit industry only partially is filling the information gap. Not enough homeowners know about or understand audits, and the follow-through on recommendations once they do have audits is incomplete. But the survey findings suggest that low energy prices and the high cost of retrofits may be more responsible for these outcomes than failures of information.